Childhood Dumb question about csa

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
When people ask me if I hurt, I say "no". Because to me - this is life.
I understand, that makes sense. If there was no one to tell then I don’t know how a person could develop that skill. My heart goes out to you. I hope you are able to push back against that old habit sometimes somehow.
 

siniang

MyPTSD Pro
The environment = familiar place, familiar smells, where any baseline experiences of fed, sheltered, warm...it doesn't have to be a happy household for these things to also be true. We're talking about sensory input for an infant.

The role (of the father) = familiar smells, familiar sounds.

For the baby, this feels like one thing. The role is an extension of the environment.

When the role (of the father, in this case) becomes = unfamiliar smell in familiar sounds - even something that small - can cause discomfort. If you add in that the father is tense in any way? The whole situation becomes very uncomfortable. If this is repeated behavior, the baby will develop in one of two ways - either they will remain uncomfortable and uneasy around the caregiver that brings discomfort (in this case, the father) - or, they will reconcile discomfort with safety. They will make sense of it - because that's what very early learning is, it's attaching physical sensation to feelings.

Not that I'm in any way qualified talking about this, but wanting to add a behavioral ecologist's/biologist's angle to this.

Infants and toddlers are very very similar to social animals (think higher mammals). They may not yet understand abstract concepts and lack a theory of mind ("since a baby doesn’t know what’s happening and doesn’t even know it has a body"), hence they rely much more on those more basic instincts and subtle cues about their environment, which includes people.

Many animals are extremely good at sensing even the most subtle cues of changes in their environment that they have previously learned is safe. (which is what makes service dogs service dogs, because they pick up on those internal teeny tiny changes of their handler; or you know how your pet always seems to just KNOW when it's time to go to the vet and will just disappear before you even pull out the carrier). And they will react to it. Keep in mind, 'reaction' doesn't necessarily have to be visibly changed behaviors. It can be as little as just a slightly elevated internal alertness. Animals also are very sensitive to the behaviors from others around them. Put an animal in a group of anxious animals and it will become anxious, too. A lot if not most of this is instinct and reflexes. Some of this is learned. But learning can happen really really really fast.

And babies are just like that. Many adults can still sense if something is "off", if a person, no matter how hard they try to hide it, is acting differently, if something has changed in their evironment etc. And babies are inherently so much better at that because they still lack language and theory of minds, so they must rely on instinct and reflexes for their survival.

To come back to one of your examples: (theoretical, because as has been pointed out, doctors don't actually do that)
A father putting his finger into his daughter's vagina will know it's wrong, even if he really tries to convince himself it's not. He may tense up a tiny bit. He may have a slightly elevated breathing. He may smell different. If he's getting off of it, there will be a change in his body that can be sensed.
A doctor putting his finger into a baby's vagina is merely doing his job. He's doing it all. the. time. He will not act differently than during any other exam methods.
 
Last edited:

joeylittle

Administrator
And babies are inherently so much better at that because they still lack language and theory of minds, so they must rely on instinct and reflexes for their survival.
Yes, this is the phenomenon I was trying to describe. You're saying it much more clearly, thank you!
He may tense up a tiny bit. He may have a slightly elevated breathing. He may smell different. If he's getting off of it, there will be a change in his body that can be sensed.
Yes, exactly.

I think it's easy to forget that infants have this intelligence of instinct, and they are constantly engaged in additive learning. To a baby, all things are true. Some things feel really wrong, very bad - but they are also true. It's all a question of frequency and quality of input and how that balances out between feels-good and feels-bad.

I didn't successfully make eye contact with an infant or toddler until a few years ago - up until then, my discomfort around them was obviously palpable (to them). When that changed, I could really observe what a difference it made, that I was interacting without feeling 'wrong'. Exactly like many other baby mammals.

Eventually my conclusion was that people just ignore their discomfort and pretend to love them.
Yep. And really, it makes tons of sense that this is what an abused child ends up with as a way to understand all sorts of painful things. It's profoundly sad.
I appreciate this conversation so much.
Me too.
 
Last edited:

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
Many adults can still sense if something is "off", i
Yes , I definitely have this. I notice the person across the room staring at the ground. I notice who twitches their body. I have seen mental health memes lately which say, “You’re not an empath, you were traumatized as a child and had to guess what your caregiver was going to do next.”
. Put an animal in a group of anxious animals and it will become anxious, too. A lot if not most of this is instinct and reflexes.
Makes me think of tuna schooling or blackbirds flocking. There’s no thought, just pure reaction. You explained it really well. It makes so much sense that babies tune into those tiniest of cues. Also makes sense why babies stare into caregivers’ eyes and do that “pure love” smile to survive through attachment since they are more helpless than most mammals when born. I really appreciate the biological perspective.

discomfort around them was obviously palpable (to them).
Makes sense. Awesome that you grew past it!

Reminds me of how my dad acted exceptionally strange around naked babies and children. He would gasp and block his eyes with his hands and act disgusted. It was pretty embarrassing to my mom and even me when I became an adult. It almost seemed like he was putting on a bizarre show.

My best explanation of his behavior was that he was feeling conflict about what he did to me and so was trying to show to the world how much he despised naked babies (and was therefore innocent.)

Also, my first child didn’t look at me for the first month of his life. I thought he was autistic. He wasn’t. But I bet money I struggled to connect. I have a very clear memory of me right after he was born holding my arms out and like crying (but not really?) and feeling like I was outside of my body and judging myself for being fake (I know it sounds weird) but I felt like I was pretending. I felt a lot of shame about that but the point is that I felt uncomfortable and strange waiting to accept my new baby into my arms.

Also my parents told me growing up that I “didn’t like to he held” when I was a newborn. They called me “Bucky” because I bucked like a horse when they held me, but that I grew out of it after three months. I believe that the body memories occurred in the first 6 months of life.

Thank you @joeylittle and @siniang for support and insight. It’s very interesting thinking about how babies interact with their environment. I got my degree in Zoology, but I never studied human infants.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I had to deal with this or I am except it was my mother. I understand the mental gymnastics and anguish. For me it was part of the revelatory process or making my memories real and not repressed any longer. It doesn’t seem like abuse. It never felt like abuse. It wasn’t till long after as an adult that it dawned on me . It was my behavior more than anything that showed me it must have been abuse. The impossible feeling that something was so wrong and things just wouldn’t add up. The process is very difficult but I feel like this is how it comes out and it has to come out. You aren’t alone but I never thought that helped much. You are doing it. It’s not easy.
 

katz

MyPTSD Pro
I understand, that makes sense. If there was no one to tell then I don’t know how a person could develop that skill. My heart goes out to you. I hope you are able to push back against that old habit sometimes somehow.
I wish I could. I tried to once. I told the family and everyone got very angry at me. It was like being re-traumatized..... I don't talk to any family about it anymore. That was over 25 years ago.

I even avoid the subject with my husband, even though he does know that something happened. I'm don't want to be verbally attacked again.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
First I want to acknowledge how painful it must be to have this implicit experience on the foreground and live with it. I mean seriously we underestimate what it means to be a survivor! I feel this with you.

Secondly, the simplest form of answering your main question is this: you are the best example of what it means and why it is trauma. Cause you have the memory as visual and cant get rid of it yet. So that alone tells you how it is manifested, hurts, confuses, and f*cks up a child all the way to adulthood. The mere fact you have to ask this question shows it is traumatic for the baby.

Thirdly, and again (you are the best example) there is this notion that a baby is unconscious. A baby is not unconscious they just do not have same language we do. If you have dogs, try to hit them with your hand or leg - they will blink! why? cause they know a blunt when they see one. A child/baby knows. They are creating unconscious for the adulthood but babies are the definition of consciousness - they sleep, eat, poo, get love, give love and they lay there and coo!

Sexually touching them is not part of that so it is trauma. Same if you leave them too long and they cry until they are blue - same thing - traumatic. They know what is wrong and what is right naturally as any animal/organism knows. Try to give a ball, take it back and deny it - they know! you can clearly see them on their faces going wtf are you doing? I am trying to add light humor to make a point without making it too morbid in such a morbid topic.

Any activity an adult does with a child, that they would not do infront of others and must be conducted in intentional or malevolent (consciously or unconsciously) and secrecy, creates a predator and a victim scenario.
 

OliveJewel

MyPTSD Pro
Any activity an adult does with a child, that they would not do infront of others and must be conducted in intentional or malevolent (consciously or unconsciously) and secrecy, creates a predator and a victim scenario.
Thanks for your thoughts. This one especially stood out to me. While I didn’t think my dad was being secretive since he didn’t instruct me not to tell anyone, I know that if he had said to my mom, “Hey, while you were in the shower, our daughter came in here and I masturbated in front of her. Just so you know, in case you have any thoughts about that.”

No, that would never happen. And it’s not because my dad was so liberated that he thought it was no big deal. The reason he didn’t tell my mom is because he was hiding what he did. Because he knew it was wrong. It’s possible that he didn’t think it was that bad, but that doesn’t mean he was right about that.

It is still hard for me to accept the body memories from when I was an infant. And that’s understandable. I am willing to bet there are lots of people on this site with memories they will never have confirmed, from various stages of their lives but especially from childhood. Anybody who has unconfirmed memories has to find ways to accept whatever they need to, in whatever way they can. I might start a thread discussion for people to share how to accept that they’ve been abused when the memories are fragmented at best.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Anybody who has unconfirmed memories has to find ways to accept whatever they need to, in whatever way they can.
Yeah, I worked on this with my T. I was hung up on not remembering how one rape started. I remember the build up to it, and the immediate aftermath, but not the precise specific detail of how how it "started". And I convinced myself that unless I remember that specific detail, then I will never believe it was rape. My T worked with me about accepting I night never remember, and how to make peace with that, and how to believe it happened with what I did remember. Which I was able to do.

It's a tough process.
I think because *we need details*. Minute details to confirm or deny what happened. With so much confusion, it's like I need precise information to have some sort of scientific evaluation of the event.
Letting that notion go is hard, but freeing.

T also helped me realise that: I wouldn't have symptoms of trauma if there wasn't trauma.
 
Top